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Tips for Summertime Golden Hour Family Photos

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

Summertime is not a particularly popular time for family photos here in Texas because of the heat, but it can make for some magical photos. The warm glow of the sun during golden hour on a summer day is beautiful. Its when you can capture your family among green grasses, flowers, or playing in a river or lake. Photos taken in summer evoke a different feeling.

But, summertime photo sessions come with challenges. First, the heat. It can get HOT here in San Antonio. From May until September, we can experience temps into the 100s, so the only options for photos outdoors are either early in the morning or late in the evening (preferably by a body of water). Second, the time of day. Those early morning sessions happen as close to sunrise as possible to utilize the soft light and cooler temps. Sunrise can be as early as 6:30 am. Being able to get everyone in your family up, dressed, and fed for a morning session can be a challenge. So an evening session is usually easier to manage during the summer months. The problem is that sunset can be as late as 8:45 pm during the summer months, way past many kids' bed times.

So how do you plan for your evening session in the summer when it doesn't start until 7 pm? Here are some tips to prepare and keep kids happy for your golden hour summer photo session!

(1) Alter Nap Time / Bed Times the week of your session

During the week leading up the your photo session push your kids' nap times and/or bed time slightly forward a little each day until they are accustomed to going to bed later in the evening. After your session, start pushing those times back to their normal time of day.

You may also be tempted to have your little ones nap right before or on the way to their session. However, if your kid is grumpy after they first wake up, it's actually better to keep them awake and let them sleep afterwards.

(2) Eat before your session

It'll be a long day if you wait to have dinner until after your session. Avoid being hangry during your session by having dinner at least 2 hours before you need to leave for your session.

Make sure you eat early enough that you won't feel rushed. You'll still want plenty of time to get dressed and brush your teeth.

(3) Bring snacks & favorite toy

Just because you eat beforehand, doesn't mean you or your kids won't be hungry again during your session. Keep those tummies happy by having some snacks on hand. They are also good for appeasing kids who may be feeling a little cranky or when they just need a break from all the excitement. Letting your kids sit down on a blanket and have a few snacks while parent(s) or other children are photographed is perfectly fine and sometimes a great way to keep a session moving smoothly.

Not all snacks are good for photo sessions. Here are some good, clean snacks you can bring to your session:

  • Mini marshmallows

  • Cereals (e.g., Cheerios, Chex,

  • Gummies or dried fruits like raisins

  • Yogurt drops

  • Lollipop for older kids when session is done (once you unwrap, there's no putting it down, so save this for the walk back to car)

Snacks to Avoid:

  • Chocolate

  • Powdery snacks (i.e., Cheetos)

  • Snacks that stain teeth/lips

  • Anything sticky

Don't forget some water!

Sometimes a snack isn't what a kid wants and isn't going to do the trick to keep them happy. If they have a favorite toy, bring it to your session. Having photos of them with their favorite stuffed animal or book is going to be something you'll love years down the road.

TIP: Don't announce that you have snacks or their toy before your session or at the beginning. Let it be a surprise or an "in case of emergency" item. If you let kids know you have something yummy or a toy early on, they may ask for it too soon or cry for it during the entire session. It'll become the only thing they want.

(4) Take it easy during the day

You don't want to exhaust all of your energy before you get to your session. You also don't want your kids to be too tired, either. High energy is perfect for family photos because often times, I ask kids to run and play and explore. They'll need their energy and so will you. Make your session the most exciting thing they'll do that day.

(5) Release all expectations

This (and having fun) is the key to a successful family photo session, no matter the time of year. Go into your session planning to have fun and go with the flow. We cannot control the weather so if its sunny, great! If its overcast, great! If its windy, let your hair down and embrace it! We also cannot control how your kids will feel on the day or in the moment. If you have an expectation for a certain image you want to create where your baby is cuddled up in your arms, but on the day they only want to run and play, you may be disappointed and miss out on all the beautiful, playful moments you will have captured instead.

Are you excited to book your next family session during the summer?


Laura Tannenbaum is a lifestyle family and portrait photographer in San Antonio, Texas. She loves capturing real life, loving moments between loved ones and showcasing personalities. To learn more about Laura visit her About Page.

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